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[ahy-dee-uh, ahy-deeuh ] /aɪˈdi ə, aɪˈdiə/
any conception existing in the mind as a result of mental understanding, awareness, or activity.
a thought, conception, or notion:
That is an excellent idea.
an impression:
He gave me a general idea of how he plans to run the department.
an opinion, view, or belief:
His ideas on raising children are certainly strange.
a plan of action; an intention:
the idea of becoming an engineer.
a groundless supposition; fantasy.
  1. a concept developed by the mind.
  2. a conception of what is desirable or ought to be; ideal.
  3. (initial capital letter) Platonism.. Also called form. an archetype or pattern of which the individual objects in any natural class are imperfect copies and from which they derive their being.
  4. Kantianism. idea of pure reason.
Music. a theme, phrase, or figure.
  1. a likeness.
  2. a mental image.
1400-50; < Late Latin < Greek idéā form, pattern, equivalent to ide- (stem of ideîn to see) + feminine noun ending; replacing late Middle English idee < Middle French < Late Latin, as above; akin to wit1
Related forms
idealess, adjective
preidea, noun
subidea, noun
1, 2. Idea, thought, conception, notion refer to a product of mental activity. Idea, although it may refer to thoughts of any degree of seriousness or triviality, is commonly used for mental concepts considered more important or elaborate: We pondered the idea of the fourth dimension. The idea of his arrival frightened me. Thought, which reflects its primary emphasis on the mental process, may denote any concept except the more weighty and elaborate ones: I welcomed his thoughts on the subject. A thought came to him. Conception suggests a thought that seems complete, individual, recent, or somewhat intricate: The architect's conception delighted them. Notion suggests a fleeting, vague, or imperfect thought: a bare notion of how to proceed. 4. sentiment, judgment. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for idea
  • No one should be surprised by the notion of teaching as a performance, although some of you may be appalled at the idea.
  • The idea of cherry-picking applies in a number of business contexts.
  • Blanketing a heartwarming stew with a flaky brown crust is a great idea whose time has come.
  • It's an idea that's easy to pull off in your own kitchen.
  • The idea that college is a contemplative realm of humanistic inquiry, removed from vulgar material needs, is nonsense.
  • They think they are paraphrasing and they are attributing the idea to the appropriate author.
  • Your good idea must also be well positioned, or review panels for grant agencies are unlikely to approve it.
  • It wasn't the first time such an idea had raised eyebrows.
  • The idea of the student as a consumer who essentially shops for the courses that suit his taste.
  • The idea of handing such decisions to outsiders might make some faculty members wince.
British Dictionary definitions for idea


any content of the mind, esp the conscious mind
the thought of something: the very idea appals me
a mental representation of something: she's got a good idea of the layout of the factory
the characterization of something in general terms; concept: the idea of a square circle is self-contradictory
an individual's conception of something: his idea of honesty is not the same as yours and mine
the belief that something is the case: he has the idea that what he's doing is right
a scheme, intention, plan, etc: here's my idea for the sales campaign
a vague notion or indication; inkling: he had no idea of what life would be like in Africa
significance or purpose: the idea of the game is to discover the murderer
  1. a private mental object, regarded as the immediate object of thought or perception
  2. a Platonic Idea or Form
(music) a thematic phrase or figure; motif
(obsolete) a mental image
get ideas, to become ambitious, restless, etc
not one's idea of, not what one regards as (hard work, a holiday, etc)
that's an idea, that is worth considering
the very idea!, that is preposterous, unreasonable, etc
Derived Forms
idealess, adjective
Usage note
It is usually considered correct to say that someone has the idea of doing something, rather than the idea to do it: he had the idea of taking (not the idea to take) a short holiday
Word Origin
C16: via Late Latin from Greek: model, pattern, notion, from idein to see


another name for Form
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for idea

late 14c., "archetype of a thing in the mind of God; Platonic `idea,'" from Latin idea "idea," and in Platonic philosophy "archetype," from Greek idea "ideal prototype," literally "the look of a thing (as opposed to the reality); form; kind, sort, nature," from idein "to see," from PIE *wid-es-ya-, suffixed form of root *weid- "to see" (see vision). Sense of "result of thinking" first recorded 1640s.

Men of one idea, like a hen with one chicken, and that a duckling. [Thoreau, "Walden"]
Idée fixe (1836) is from French, literally "fixed idea."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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idea in Medicine

idea i·de·a (ī-dē'ə)
Something, such as a thought or conception, that potentially or actually exists in the mind as a product of mental activity.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for idea


Related Terms

what's the big idea

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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idea in Technology
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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Related Abbreviations for idea


  1. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
  2. International Data Encryption Algorithm
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Idioms and Phrases with idea
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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